Taking Back the Government
An interesting strategic discussion has developed in the comments to a post from last Thursday. Writes Michael:
How do we regain control of our government? I don’t know. Politics is a rich man’s game now, and probably always was, just not as blatant. Without lobbyists in the State House, or White House peddling their influence things might be a little better. I am not innocent here, my union, th IAFF has a huge lobby in Washington, and a lot of local clout as well. I believe that this is a direct result of us trying to maintain an equal footing at the upper levels of government. Collectively, firefighters are able to contribute money to get some leverage, leverage that would be used by people and institutions with opposing views about things like minimum manning, equipment, training, working conditions and safety.
Get rid of the lobbyists on both sides and begin there. Stop making it so expensive to win an election, but how?
To which BobN responds:
It’s a very complex question, but here are some stream-of-consciousness thoughts:
1. In the worst case, a second American Revolution. Not recommended. I think we have the obligation to do everything in our power to avoid going down that path.
2. That’s why it is so important for people to re-learn (or learn, since it isn’t much taught in school any more) American history, and to become politically active. (Is it a Statist conspiracy that public school “health” classes encourage kids to be sexually active to distract them from being politically active?)
3. Politics isn’t necessarily a rich man’s game, if enough people can be mobilized. Sure it takes money – some professionals estimate $10K for a state rep seat, double that for a state senate seat. And at the state level, those local races determine everything because the GA has all the power. You don’t need a state-wide TV or radio buy to run for rep in District 31 – most of that money would be wasted. The right candidates can tap into grassroots-level money and use it effectively in ways that are tightly targeted on their districts.
4. Here’s one way to look at it: if each of the 3500 people at the first Tax Day Tea Party contributes $3, that’s a rep seat budget.
5. The experience of the past year gives me hope that people are seeing through media propaganda, making message more important than money. As voters become more informed and aware, that dynamic will strengthen. The imminent threats to family budgets from unemployment, nationalized health care, and government employees outstripping them in income and benefits, have angered many people enough to get off their couches and get active. This is very healthy for society.
6. Contributing to the weakening of money is the internet. Putting ads on Youtube or your website costs nearly nothing, and if they are really good they go viral to provide a size and quality of audience that money can’t buy. Blogs are rapidly growing their influence relative to TV and big newspapers.
That said, the Statists have been amassing power for decades and the government/Progressive machine has a great deal of power woven into the system. Defeating them will not be easy and it will not take only one election cycle.
My first thought is that the problem with the “block the lobbyists” impulse is that lobbyists — aka, citizens — have Constitutional rights to petition their government and otherwise speak and contribute toward elections and legislation.
My second thought may sound simplistic, but I’d suggest that the answer to all of these problems is to move away from centralized government. If more issues are decided by state governments, representing relatively small portions of the country, and town governments, overseeing populations in the thousands, there simply won’t be as much incentive for multimillion dollar advertising campaigns. This is true not only because the audience/electorate would be much smaller, but also because motivated residents could more easily counteract big-dollar campaigns with grassroots assistance and community interaction.
The difficult part — even once a critical mass of people stop being lured by the promise of marginal economies of scale savings through regional and national administration — will be electing a political class intent on dispersing its own power, replacing incumbents with non-politicians who will fight to claim power from above while pushing as much as feasible to tiers of government below. That’s an long-shot type of task that’ll have to begin with representatives way at the bottom of the hierarchy building up constituencies to demand the return of their authority and pushing for an end to gerrymandering so that lower political structures that cover geographical areas (i.e., towns and cities) have direct lines (and career paths) to higher offices.